Monday, June 23, 2014

My Visit To The 9/11 Memorial And Museum

I recently visited the 9/11 memorial and museum.  I waited to visit until the museum was opened, and it has been open for about a month at this point.  You can go directly to the memorial without a ticket or anything.  You do need a ticket to the museum, and even with a ticket, you can expect long lines.

There was security and police everywhere, which I guess isn’t much of a surprise. 

The entrance to the museum once you are inside the building.
While the main part of the museum is very open, I felt claustrophobic.  I had the distinct feeling that I didn’t belong there, like I wasn’t supposed to be there.  The main part of the museum mainly includes pieces of the World Trade Center that the museum is built around. 

The part of the museum that goes through the timeline of events on 9/11 and includes pictures, news footage on loop, and small artifacts, felt like too much.  I didn’t need to see the things that were there (and there is no photography allowed in that part of the museum).  None of the artifacts belong to the living, because what value would they have?  The artifacts are things that survived when the person did not. 

I was 15 when September 11th happened, and I was under the impression that bad things only happened to other people.  On September 11th, the world felt unbelievably small, and I felt like what happened, happened to a collective “us”.  I had never been to New York prior to 9/11, nor did I know anyone that lived there or died that day.

So for me, I was surprised that I had such a visceral reaction to the museum.  I was only there for about an hour, but it felt like many more. 

The museum facade as seen from one of the two reflecting pools.
I really appreciated the memorial, though, with the reflecting pools that are located in the footprint of the buildings, which contain the names of those that died on September 11th in the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and those that were killed in the 1993 terrorist attack on the WTC.  

I spent some additional time at the memorial site.  Surrounded by trees, and with the constant sound of waterfalls, it really is a place of memory and comfort. 

The museum was a different story.  It felt garish and macabre.  You travel pretty far down to get to the different levels of the museum.  To get out, you have to take a very long escalator that is lit up, and there is church-like music playing in the background.  You arrive back upstairs, to the light of day.

One of the two reflecting pools.
t was a gray and rainy day, which seemed fitting, and really matched my mood as I exited the museum and tried to process what I had just experienced.      

The memorial implores us to remember the lives of those that were lost, while the museum implores us to remember things we would rather forget. 

Honestly, I am glad I went to the museum, but it is probably not somewhere I would go back to.  The contrast between the disembodied feel of the open areas of the museum, and viewing the personal effects of strangers, was just too much for me.  I don’t know why anyone would want to relive that day, and I do feel that the museum capitalizes on other peoples’ tragedy. 

So rarely do I talk about events and experiences outside of illness that have had an impact on my life, so I decided to share this experience with all of you.

"No day shall erase you from the memory of time." -Virgil 
Of course, the things that happened on September 11th were some of the worst things imaginable.  And to my 15 year old mind, the personal tragedies of those who died that day or lost somebody that day were nightmarish.  Then, it didn’t seem like anything worse could happen in the world. 

But since that day, we live in a world in which bad things happen all the time.  And maybe they always did.  Maybe September 11th opened our eyes to a world that is not as it should be.   

The Freedom Tower, standing 1776 feet.  In both name and height, this building represents our country.
While I did the WTC visit on my own, A and I recently visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which provided beautiful and expansive views of the quintessential Manhattan skyline, although without the WTC, but now with the Freedom Tower.  Such symbolism of where so many began their quest for freedom generations ago, and the Tower representing freedom for this generation.

While for me New York was never the pinnacle, and regardless of my personal feelings about this city, there is something to be said for having all of these amazing sites in your backyard.

This is the Manhattan I always imagined, except with the WTC and not the Freedom Tower.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Rallying Cry

I just got back from a two week vacation in Michigan.  I got to spend time with my family and friends.  It was a really nice time.

It also made me realize that some of the comforts of home involve my illnesses. 

There were two and a half days in the last two weeks in which I felt really bad. 

The day after I got home, it rained all day, so that left me with a headache and totally spacey feeling.

Then we were going to a Tiger’s (baseball) game.  I woke up feeling fine, but a few hours later ended up with a pretty bad headache.  I went back to bed and told my sister to wake me up, and each time, asked for another half an hour, because every time I tried to lift my head off of the pillow, I overcome with dizziness.  Eventually, it got to the point where I didn’t have another half an hour before we needed to leave.

So I got up and dressed.

The nice thing was that my family told me I didn’t have to go to the game, if I didn’t feel up to it.  Or, I could go, and if I didn’t feel well, we could leave the game. 

It was so nice.  But I told them that I would go, that I would rally.  And I did. 

But I always struggle with trying to rally and simply waiting until I feel better to do things.  Sometimes I wonder whether I wouldn’t start to feel better just by pushing myself to get out of bed. 

However, then there are real feelings of not feeling well, that you can’t shake, no matter what.

But what was really refreshing was to have people just get it.  Who I didn’t have to explain to, and who I wouldn’t have to justify myself to if I wouldn’t have been able to rally.

And that’s a big part of what is missing in New York.  Aside from my family, of course.  I feel like I have to have an explanation for everything I don’t do.  The lifestyle in New York City is just go, go, go, do, do, do, no matter what.  And that just doesn’t work for me.    

I pride myself in my ability to rally.  Sometimes it takes an hour and I can bounce back.  Other times, it takes hours.  And other times, it doesn’t happen at all. 

But with my family, the important thing is being together.  So whether that means me being in bed and my parents being in the next room, going to a baseball game or the mall or whatever, it doesn’t matter.  Because we’re together.  And now that I live in New York, we get that time so much less often than we used to.

But that time is sacred.  And so is my health.  And when it comes to my family, those two things happen to go together.